Cruz rant against Obamacare falls short of filibuster
In a feat of stamina and verbosity—though not necessarily effective legislative maneuvering—Cruz spoke for twenty-one hours and forty minutes. Colleagues assisted him by interjecting lengthy questions, but Cruz held the floor, mixing critiques of Obamacare with surreal references to everything from Dr. Seuss to Ashton Kutcher. The speech was in the style of a filibuster, but was not one. It was planned to end at noon Wednesday, and it did. VOR's Justin Mitchell has the highlights.
Senator Ted Cruz’s epic speech was in support of a spending bill that would defund the Affordable Care Act while keeping the rest of the government operational for the time being.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled House of Representatives amid worries of a government shutdown. The bill continues to fund the government until mid-December, but only on the condition no funding is provided for the ACA, major parts of which are set to take effect October 1.
Cruz said Americans are against the ACA -- often derisively dubbed "Obamacare." He challenged his fellow Senators to stand with him.
"Anyone who votes to cut off debate is allowing Majority Leader Harry Reid to fully fund Obamacare," Cruz said from the Senate floor. "That's a vote that I think is a profound mistake."
Cruz had a litany of reasons for why that is the case.
"Every day, the headlines come in: more jobs lost, more people losing their health insurance, more premiums going up, more people pushed into part-time work," he said.
As the hours stretched on, Cruz's rhetoric occasionally slipped into the surreal and absurd.
Around 6 p.m. Tuesday, Cruz read Dr. Seuss' classic "Green Eggs and Ham" to his two little girls via C-SPAN.
While many have seen Seuss's work as having a left-wing perspective, staunch conservative Cruz didn't hesitate to use the author's words for his own cause.
"They did not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house, or with a mouse," he said to laughter. "It is not working."
As the evening became the night and the night became the morning, Cruz also made references to T.V. star Ashton Kutcher and the Star Wars media franchise -- complete with a Darth Vader impression.
Cruz insists this was more than a partisan exercise. At one point, he appealed to Democrats to join him.
"I do have faith that there will be Democrat Senators who will feel that same pang of conscience," Cruz said.
Cruz was trying to join some hallowed company.
In the classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," Jimmy Stewart's character filibustered the Senate until he collapsed to stop a corrupt appropriations bill.
Just last summer, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis drew accolades for her own real-life filibuster of an anti-abortion law.
But what Ted Cruz did was not a filibuster. His speech did not halt any action on the funding bill. It was more of an extended showcase for Cruz's opposition to the ACA.
It's happened before. In 2010, left-leaning independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont made a long speech in protest of corporate greed and the erosion of the middle class.
Cruz started his speech knowing he would have to yield at noon eastern time Wednesday so the Senate could begin proceedings towards a vote on the spending bill.
And that vote is almost guaranteed to kill the spending bill in its current form, by removing the clause defunding the ACA and sending it back to the House.
This will be thanks not only to the Democratic majority in the Senate, but also the leadership of Cruz's own party.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not support Cruz's call to block the spending bill.
"We'd all be hard-pressed to explain why we were opposed to a bill we were in favor of," he said. "Invoking cloture on a bill that defunds Obamacare, doesn't raise taxes and respects the Budget Control Act -- it strikes me as a no-brainer."
Cruz, widely seen as a contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, was still defiant of party leadership.
"If those members of this conference want to disagree with this strategy and say 'We agree with Harry Reid, that Obamacare should not be defunded on the continuing resolution,' then let them say so openly," Cruz said.
Senator Ted Cruz took on the mantle of conservative leader in a body where moderation is usually preferred.
That is, until noon Wednesday, on the dot, when Reid banged the gavel right on schedule, so the Senate could get on with its business.